As the Kentucky Derby approaches, big straw hats, fine southern bourbon and the mint julep, one of the oldest, most revered fixtures of the drinking world show a resurgence in online searches.
The mint julep originates from the Arab word “julab,” which was likely a medicinal rose water concoction. However, the modern day mint julep reportedly came about in the early 1800s.
Frederick Marryat’s 1839 A Diary in America probably captured the mint julep best: “I once overheard two ladies talking in the room next to me, and one of them said, ‘Well, if I have a weakness for any one thing, it is for a mint julep’ – a very amiable weakness, and proving her good sense and good taste. They are, in fact, like American ladies, irresistible.”
What exactly is a mint julep? Historically, a drink of whiskey, cognac or rum that is sweetened with sugar, iced and flavored with a taste of fresh spearmint. A highly ritualistic tipple, I’ll leave you to judge which is best.
Regardless of alcohol preference, curious partakers can follow these basic mint julep preparation guidelines:
In a pre-chilled glass or julep cup, add the syrup and mint leaves. Muddle lightly, just to release the oils. Discard the bruised mint, half pack the glass with crushed ice, pour on the base spirit, stir to chill and top with more crushed ice. Garnish with a bunch of fresh spearmint, stems cut up to the leaves.
The official Kentucky Derby website boasts a classic mint julep recipe featuring Early Times southern whiskey – http://www.kentuckyderby.com/experience/traditions/mint-julep2
For a hands on approach, The Food Network offers a easy to follow video at http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/sara-moulton/the-perfect-mint-julep-recipe/index.html
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